In the heart of downtown Orlando, around the intersection of Highway 50 (Colonial Drive) and Mills Avenue, is a thriving Vietnamese population. This area is often referred to as Little Saigon, Vietnam Town, Vi Mi, or simply Little Vietnam.
It’s not a tourist attraction, per se, but for the lucky readers of my blog searching for “more than a mouse”™ it provides a delightful afternoon excursion.
Of course, the centerpiece of any ethnic population is the unique tastes of their indigenous cuisine. Tourists will gravitate towards the polished Little Saigon Restaurant with its fancy entrance and posh interior. Others might choose the more relaxed Anh Hong Restaurant while the truly adventurous will endure the Spiritual preaching that permeates the TVs mounted on the walls of the all vegan Loving Hut Restaurant. Vietnamese food features generous portions at a price that won’t empty your wallet.
If you want to take some authentic Vietnamese food home with you, you’ll enjoy shopping at Phuoc Loc Tho, a huge supermarket featuring everything from Vietnamese groceries to special cooking utensils, knick knacks and bulk foods. Take a moment to enjoy the spiritual shrine and aromatic incense at the entrance to the store. Like everyone we encountered in Little Vietnam, the staff at Phuoc Loc Tho is overtly friendly and eager to please.
A stroll around Little Vietnam unearths other treasures such as the Ci Tea Herbal Garden Natural Foods Store, Dong A Imports, Avalon–a wiccan/spiritual shop that’s unforgettable (although it’s British owned so does that mean it’s technically not a part of Little Vietnam?) Lastly, be sure to visit Lollicup Tea Zone to enjoy the unique, refreshing experience of a bubble tea. (If you’ve never had a “boba”-an iced milk/tea beverage with small tapioca balls that you sip through and enlarged straw–well, trust me on this one, it alone is worth the trip!)
Most of all, it seems that everyone you encounter in this section of town is polite and willing to serve you. It’s a nice testament to the Vietnamese cultural and part of what makes a side trip to Little Vietnam well worth your time.
And if, like us, you have a child who enjoys oriental culture, well, be prepared for squeals of delight.